O’Neill said she adopted the form of punishment because that is how she was brought up.
‘I did it because that's what I knew growing up, but I also find it hard to communicate feelings and put things into words,’ she said. ‘Plus I was smacked and it never hurt me.’
O’Neill is now a supporter of ‘positive reinforcement.’
‘I am doing a uni course on psychology now and it shows that smacking and physical punishment really doesn't work. Positive reinforcement does,’ said O'Neill.
‘I still want to do it sometimes, and I do it sometimes out of habit, but I try not to because kids don't learn from that.’
O’Neill is an eight-time Olympic medalist. She has two children, Alix, 12 and William, 10, with her husband Cliff Fairley.